Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strawberries & Cream Dessert Squares

Strawberries & Cream Squares 2

I adore strawberries. I think it's one of those fruits that's right on the top of most peoples "favorite fruit" lists.

Red and juicy, they just scream summer to me.

I can sit and eat a bowl full plain, just chopped up and naked.

I've been known to sprinkle a little confectioners sugar over them and throw them over ice cream.

I chop them up finely and add them into yogurt.

I've picked them by the bushel full and canned up jars of jam.

I just love them.

One of my most favorite ways to eat them is in a scrumptious dessert and this one certainly qualifies.

Strawberries & Cream Squares 1

A shortbread cookie on the bottom.....a layer of cream cheese and white chocolate in the middle, topped with crushed and sliced strawberries in a sweet juicy jam sauce. It just doesn't get much better.

I served this for Father's Day. I had to hurry and cut out a slice to photograph before it was all gone.

Don't over bake your sugar cookie layer. Take it out just as it starts to turn slightly light golden brown or your cookie will be too hard to cut. I've learned this little trick from experience.

Strawberries & Cream Squares

You could turn this into a red, white and blue dessert by adding in a few blueberries.

Strawberries & Cream Dessert Squares
recipe from Better Crocker
For the crust:
1 pouch (1lb, 1.5oz) Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg

For the Filling:
1 cup white vanilla baking chips (6oz) - I could not find a package of chips that specified that they were vanilla. I used Ghiradelli white chips.
1 8oz package cream cheese softened

For the topping:
4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/3 cup water
10 to 12 drops of red food coloring (optional)

Oven to 350. Spray the bottom only of a 15x10x1 or a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray. (I used a 9x13). In a large bowl stir together the cookie mix, butter and egg until a soft dough forms. Press evenly in the bottom of the pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely (about 30 mins)

In a small microwavable bowl, microwave the baking chips uncovered on high 45 to 60 seconds or until chips are melted and can be stirred smooth. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in the melted chips and blend. Spread the mixture over the cooled crust. Refrigerate while making topping.

In a small bowl crush 1 cup of the strawberries. In a 2 quart saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch. Stir in the crushed strawberries and 1/3 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. It should be like a really thick jam. Stir in food coloring if desired. I thought I would skip this step, but the color of the berries when they were cooked was a really pale pink, so I added in just a few drop of red to perk it up. Gently stir in the remaining 3 cups of strawberries. Spoon topping over filling. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set. Serve within 4 hours. I have no idea how they came up with the 4 hour time limit, but I suppose the berries would start to make the bottom a bit soggy. Store leftovers in fridge.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grilled Artichokes with Garlic & Romano Cheese

Grilled artichokes 4

Have you ever eaten an artichoke?

I know to a lot of folks it’s one of those vegetable that they just have never been exposed to. It’s not a friendly looking vegetable. It’s spikey and picky and you have to clean it and trim it and that can take up some time, but I think it’s so worth it. There isn’t another vegetable that tastes like an artichoke.

I grew up eating them. Whether is was stuffed with cheese, garlic and breadcrumbs then boiled until tender and delicious, or chopped and fried in olive oil and made into one of my most favorite ways to eat them….an artichoke omelet. They have always been one of my favorite vegetables.

My Nonna and Nonno would come on Sundays from Framingham, MA, bags of goodies under their arms, and I would always look to see if artichokes were in the bags, cause that meant that my Nonna would be making an omelet.


My Nonna is no longer with us, and my Mom took over making the omelets. I think I need to make one and share it with you guys. Putting that on my “to-do” list right now.

Grilled artichokes

In the meantime, I want to share this simple recipe for grilled artichokes.

Yes the prep takes a little bit of time, but it’s so worth every single bite.

Here is a diagram to show you all the different parts of an artichoke.

artichoke parts

I based this recipe on one I saw on Proud Italian Cook’s site.

Grilled Artichokes with Garlic and Romano Cheese
4 large artichokes
3 cloves minced garlic
Romano cheese
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh lemon

To prep the artichoke:
With a vegetable peeler, trim off just a little of the outside stem. Now you need to trim the outer leaves. It’s easiest to do this with a pair of kitchen scissors. Just cut off a little over half the hard outer leaves with the stem on it, leaving just a little under half on the choke. Quarter the artichokes, leaving the stem intact. Place them in a large pot of boiling water. Don’t get a roaring boil going, just a gentle boil. Boil under tender. Don’t let them get really soft or they will fall apart on the grill, you just want them tender enough so a toothpick can be easily inserted. It took about 15 for mine to get tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, you need to clean out the choke.

To clean the artichoke:
With a small paring knife remove the fuzzy choke part and the some of the inner leaves. You will be able to feel the ones that need to come out. They are a little prickly. Now you are ready to put on the garlic and cheese and get them ready for the grill.

I took a big bowl and tossed all the artichokes in olive oil. You don't want to drench them, just give them a nice coating. Next I mixed the chopped garlic and Romano cheese together, then I just opened the leaves a little and sprinkled some in each one. Sprinkle some Kosher salt over each one then grill until the cheese gets crusty and brown. You will need to turn them a few times while they cook. Drizzle with lemon when they come off the grill.

Eating the artichoke:
To eat them I just pull off the outer leaves and scrape the bottoms with my teeth and then I eat the stem and heart (my absolute favorite part).

These are great served as an appetizer.

Grilled artichokes 2

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce

It's finally cookout and BBQ season here in New England. I couldn't think of a better way to kick off the season than by sharing a recipe for BBQ sauce.

Making homemade BBQ is pretty simple.

All you're really doing in taking a bunch of ingredients and slap 'em all in a heavy pot and cooking it for a few hours.

The result = thick and tangy BBQ sauce that will having you wondering why you didn't try making your own sooner.

This is another recipe that I have to thank my mother-in-law Carol for. She emailed it to me, but called me before to put in her disclaimer.

"Now I know you don't really like them, and I have NEVER made any of their recipes before, but the recipe I sent you is from....THE NEELYS and I hate to say it but, it's really good"

The Neelys. Ugh. What can I tell you. I just can't watch them. I've tried, twice, but both times I was forced to change channels before the show was half way through. They are just too lovey-dovey, and smoochy for me. Makes me wonder where their hands have been before they touch the food. Sorry, that's really what goes through my head.

So, yes, I can't stand the Neelys, but I'm happy that my mother-in-law could tolerate them long enough to try this recipe and pass it along to me.

I've made it two times already and plan on making a triple batch to get us through the cookout season.

I tweaked it a bit. Don't I always? If you like it with a little more kick, add in whatever will spice up your life.

Homemade BBQ sauce cu1

Homemade BBQ Sauce
2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
6 teaspoons brown sugar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons, fresh cracked black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon corn syrup

Combine all ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours or until thick. Refrigerate leftovers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Tidbits

Just checking in.

Still crazy busy.

Kids are done with school on Monday so that will give me a few extra quiet moments every morning, plus I won’t have to say things like “do you have your backpack? gym clothes? ID badge? lunch? homework?” every single morning multiple times.

I also won’t have to wake two sleepy teenagers up every morning. Oh what will I do with all the time??

The cute little bunnies are wreaking havoc in my garden. They have eaten my basil and one cuke and have done a number on my daisies. Hell yeah they are adorable. Just look.

Baby bunny 4

Baby bunny 1

Even Moose was checking him out.

Baby bunny

This little bugger was just sitting out in the back near my basil waiting to fill his belly up with what would eventually be my pesto for the year.

It’s time to get a rabbit proof fence.

I’m being stalked by a bird. I call him Mr. Edelweiss. If you have seen the movie Nanny McPhee Returns you will understand a bit more. More on Mr. Edelweiss in a later post.

crazy bird 1

Moose jumped up on the couch, unassisted for the first time in almost a year. It was a joyous occasion in our house. The old Moose is really coming back. *sniff*.

This is my friends dog Sasha. Beautiful girl. I wish I wasn’t allergic to her so she could come over and have sleepovers at my house with Moose.


I have a really good BBQ sauce recipe coming. I have to make a 2nd batch cause we ate the 1st one before I could photograph it. It’s so good you’ll want to eat it straight up with a spoon.

Enjoy your weekend and enjoy Father's Day. I'm cookin' up a bunch of Dad's favorites.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Double Chocolate Pound Cake

Double Chocolate Pound Cake

When my friend Tati (short for Tatjana) comes over to eat at my house, I have to have something sweet for her to eat. She is one of those people who finishes her last bite of dinner and is immediately looking for something sweet. There is no breather, there is no period of digestion, she wants sugar and she wants it NOW!

We had Tati & family over for Memorial Day weekend. There were rib eyes, baked potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a nice light pasta salad, and of course, I had to make sure there was dessert!

Now the Sunday before Memorial Day was hot here in New England. It was turn on the A/C kinda hot, I don’t feel like turning on the oven kinda hot, but I did. Cause I knew if I didn’t have something sweet for Tati to eat, I would hear her groan and whine “whadda mean you don’t have something sweet? You always have something sweet. Oh mannnn” It’s the same line every time.

Tati laughing, what she does best.

Tati happened to call me when the cake had about 15 minutes left in the oven. I told her “I have a cake in the oven cause of you! I’m melting in my kitchen cause I don’t want to get yelled at for not having something sweet for you to eat”. “GOOD” she exclaimed, and she meant it. I told her better appreciate that I made a cake just for her dammit! (She did).

This was such a great pound cake. I mean I love pound cakes anyway, but this one was moist beyond belief and had really great chocolate flavor, so don't skimp on your chocolate selection. I picked up some great German chocolate at Aldi. That might have been the key to this cake coming out so delicious!

So Tati was VERY happy with this cake. She was so happy that she ate 2 big pieces and then came over the next morning and ate even more! It was that good. It's now my official "go to" pound cake. Trust me, make this!

Double Chocolate Pound Cake1

Double Chocolate Pound Cake
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs (room temp)
2/3 cup chocolate syrup (I used Hersheys in the can)
2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces milk chocolate bars
1 teaspoon vanilla

Oven to 350. Grease and flour one 10 inch tube pan.

In a large bowl cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate syrup, flour and salt. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk and baking soda and add to the flour mixture. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate bars. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla to the batter. Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in pan and invert onto a cake plate.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What a week and a winner!!!

Phew, what a week it’s been.

We’ve been dealing with illness. John has pneumonia and a bronchial infection. I have never seen him so sick. I’ve been taking on all my “regular” chores plus his and let me tell you, it’s a lot of work! I haven’t been able to rest my feet until after 9pm most nights and when I finally do sit down, I’m so tired that I just fall asleep.

Work has been just crazy. There was a point during the middle of the week that I just had to get up from my desk and walk away for a bit. Sometimes people are just nasty and crabby for no good reason and I want to slap them upside the head and tell them to be nice cause karma will only come back to kick your ass later on when you least expect it, but I’m in HR so that's out.

Someone (and I’m not naming names) threw a new red towel in with the laundry again and turned everything pink for the 2nd time in a week!! Ugh!

It’s also been hot…Africa hot. That kind of hotness and I don’t mix well.

So that’s all the crappy stuff that’s been going on, but along with the crap, there is always goodness.

My sons really stepped up to the plate and helped me out while Papa was sick. Evan was my official plant waterer and weed puller. I didn’t have to ask either of them twice to pick up their room, set the table, load the dishwasher, take out the trash or clean up after dinner. I think they just knew Mama was at her wits end.

My oldest turned 16. Party planned are on hold till Papa recovers.

Moose is doing great.

The weekend is going to be much cooler.

I will make something delicious again in the kitchen….I promise.

Oh and here’s the winner of the Rick Bayless cookbook.

That’s what you were all waiting for wasn’t it??


Congrats! Please contact me with your address so I can get this book out to you ASAP!

Thanks for all the entries folks. Coming back here and checking out all your comments brightened my bleak week!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rick Bayless Cookbook Giveaway!

Cause I think Rick Bayless rocks.

Cause it's chock fulla recipes that you should make.

Cause I found this cookbook for a great bargain I bought two, one for you and one for me.

Cause it's almost the weekend and the terrible, horrible humidity has finally left so my hair can return to normal again.

Cause we're having absolutely beautiful weather here in New England for oh like 8 days in a row! I'm feeling hap, hap, happy.

Cause I know sometimes you just need to curl up with a good book (or cookbook) and chill.

Cause I love you all.

I'm giving away a copy of Rick Bayless' cookbook Rick & Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures.

Rick Bayless

Chef-Dad - Teenage Daughter. Recipes from Mexico to Thailand, by way of Oklahoma, France and Morocco, with side trips to Spain, Japan and Hong Kong. Each chapter starts with some wonderful stories by Rick and Lanie. It's really like reading a little mini biography before you get to all the recipes!

Here's just a few to get you salivating: Huevos Rancheros; Bangkok-Style Chicken Satay; Moroccan Meatballs, Tartiflette (French potato and cheese supper), recipes from Hickory House (his parents' barbecue restaurant, so many great ones!) Pad Thai, Potato-Leek Soup with Bacon, Profiteroles, Chocolate Truffles, Crispy Meringue Shells with Ice Cream and Fruit Salsa,and Chinese Pot Sticker Dumplings. I could go on and on.

I love that each recipe includes an intro by Rick and then by Lanie. I love that there is a little box in each recipe that says "DO THIS FIRST", cause that's what I always say to myself when I'm getting ready to make something "ok what to do first?". Problem solved. Rick even gives you music recommendations to go with each chapter. How cool is that?

So whatcha gotta do to win a copy?

Just answer a silly little question.....


Leave it in the comment section. I don't Tweet, but if you Tweet it, I'll give you another entry, just let me know. If you share it on Facebook, I'll do the same.

I'll pick a winner on June 9th cause I like the number 9.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Super Duper Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Super Duper Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't like cookies?

I was thinking about that the other day.

Have you met anyone who doesn't? Does such a person exist?

There is such a variety and so many endless combinations of what you can do with a cookie that I can't imagine there is a single person on earth you wouldn't not like them right? Sure maybe there's some tribe in the middle of a jungle off the coast of East Japeepee somewhere that's never tried a cookie, but I bet if given the opportunity to eat one, they'd pick it over their bat wing sandwich any day of the week.

This is yet another recipe from Cristina Ferrares Big Bowl of Love. I told you I wanted to make every recipe in that book. In fact this week I'm making her Linguine and Clam Sauce. Oh yeah, I wasn't kidding when I said I'm cookin' this book baby.

These are big monster cookies. I'm talking just one'll do ya. You could push for two, but one was really plenty. I froze half the batch so I can just grab them outta the freezer and pop them in the oven next time we have the hankering for a gigantic cookie.

I did make some adjustments to this recipe. I didn't add in 4 cups of chocolate chips that the recipe called for. After I started adding ingredients in and saw how the batter looked with 3 cups of chips, I was worried it would be all filling and no batter, so I scaled down the chips to 3 cups and instead of raisins, I added in a bag of the new Hershey Droplets (heaven!!!) Think big M&M's with no shell.

This dough is soft and gushy. Don't skip putting them in the fridge to firm up.

Best way to eat them if you don't scarf them down immediately out of the oven.....zap them in the microwave for 10 seconds.

Super Duper Double Chocolate Chip Cookies CU

Super-Duper Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Cristina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I only used 3 cups)
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins (I omitted these and added in 1 bag of Hershey Drops)

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking soda and salt.

With an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugars for 2 minutes until fluffy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Scrap the sides of the bowl again. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add the chocolate chips, nuts and raisins and mix well.

Using a small ice cream scoop, place golf ball sized pieces of cookie dough on the cookie sheet. Don’t worry if you crowd them at this point, they need to be chilled first before they are baked. Chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

When read to bake, line another cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the chilled cookie dough balls at least 3 ½ inches apart on the pan and bake in batches. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on top. Keep your eye on them, check them after 15 minutes. Using a metal spatula, place the cookies on a rack to cool.